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  • Writer's pictureBen Farnsworth

UCI ITT and Road Race World Championships Albi 2017

In March I qualified for the UCI Amateur World Champs at Tour de Bintan. I was massively looking forward to representing my country for the first time and the grand old age of 38!

I took up bike racing 12 months earlier, having realised that in Singapore I wasn’t enjoying training for Ironman as much as I did in the UK. Back in the UK, where my Ironman journey began, I would get by with the minimum amount of training for swimming as I’m not particularly quick and I don’t enjoy it. I would make up for this by doing more cycling and running which I do really enjoy. In Singapore however, running has become a chore. The endless heat and humidity means I am one constant sweaty mess - I definitely seem to sweat more than most! And the lack of available water when out running (why are there no water fountains in a country that is hot all year round?!) makes run training far less enjoyable.

I have also discovered I seem to be a better cyclist than I ever was a triathlete so it made more sense to focus on cycling and do the odd Ironman on the side (including the Ironman 70.3 World Champs in two weeks). I was due to compete in both the ITT which I qualified for in 3rd place in Bintan and the Road Race where I qualified in 11th place (I can’t sprint so sat up and finished in the front group).

Preparation wasn’t the best as between qualifying and Albi I had got married, been on honeymoon, started a new job and was moving flats so my power and weight was not even close to my Bintan level - I was still determined to enjoy myself and really embrace the experience.

As I had just started a new job the amount of holiday I was able to take was limited so I ended up flying overnight on the Wednesday landing in Toulouse 4 hours before I was due to be on the start line on the Thursday. Myself and my ever supportive wife Kristy got to Albi with an hour to spare where I hastily built my Road Bike. As I was flying in from Singapore logistically it was too difficult to bring my a TT bike also (and I’m not sure Kristy would have been keen to sacrifice her suitcase as well as taking all my clothes for a week in her luggage). I was one of only two or three people I spotted not on full TT rigs.

The TT course was a largely flat 22km course with a few small bumps and some very technical corners. I rolled down the starters ramp and my power numbers were looking good all things considered but I had a bit of a wake up call when the rider who started 30 seconds behind me flew past after 5 mins. I was overtaken by another 2 riders before the end of the course although I did overtake one other rider. I finished in 48th place out of 55 finishers - I was a little disappointed at first but I have to remember I was only racing against the worlds best who had all qualified to be here so 48th in the world isn’t so bad really!

As I promised Kristy this was a holiday as well as a race we spent two days exploring the area around Toulouse and eating far too much cheese, bread and saucisson!!! The area around is so beautiful and we ended up exploring the largest underground river in the world and walking through a mountain top village.

The main event was on Sunday with the 160km Road Race. The course looked technical and hilly!!! At the start line with 200 other riders all wearing their national colours was a great sight and although I had planned to start near the front to keep myself out of trouble everyone else had had the same idea and I found myself right at the back.

The first 30/40km’s were largely flat and the bunch was very nervous with a couple of early crashes which I was able to avoid. At about 45km we headed through a small village and the road narrowed but 200 cyclist all fighting for the front going from two lane to single lave was asking for trouble and duly there was a touch of wheels and 20 riders went down. I was the last rider to escape the crash but it had left me slightly distanced to the front group of 30 riders and had to spend 3km’s way past threshold to try to chase back on alone. I burnt a lot of matches getting back onto the bunch but decided it was better than riding it alone

In hindsight the bunch of 100 or so riders caught us just before the start of the first big climb at 60km’s so I should have sat up and waiting to chase back on in the main group. 

As we hit the first big climb a group of 5 riders went off the front and the main peloton slowly dwindled to about 40 riders. I was just able to keep contact as we crested the hill thankful so the first major test was passed. What I hadn’t considered however was the speed and skill that is required to stick to the bunch coming down the other side.

I managed to hold the line of the rider in front for the first 7/8 hairpins but then overcooked a corner and nearly went over the edge. My 16 months of riding wasn’t enough to get my bike handling and cornering skills to the same level as these guys who had been racing since before their teens! 

With the front group out of sight and the fact that I wasn’t at my fittest I decided to sit up and enjoy the race (well as much as you can when constantly climbing in 35C heat). At about 100km’s a team mate from Matador Racing in Singapore caught me along with another Singaporean rival from Allied World (both had started 7 mins behind me) and after a quick chat they dropped my on the next big climb.

I found myself in a good working group with another GB rider and a Swedish rider who were willing to work with me and I crossed the line in 112th. Not the result I was hoping for but still 112th best amateur cyclist in the world after taking up bike racing so recently I am super happy with how far I’ve come.

Looking forward to racing Tour de Bintan again next year and going to Italy for the UCI’s next year and will hopefully be able to compete! An awesome experience to represent my country but very humbling to race against such a high standard of riders!


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